Roy Helander’s Translations From Raivaaja

I have been translating Ed Helander’s articles from Raivaaja, especially the late ones in the late 1980’s and even up to a couple of years before his death.  In these he often reminisced about his life in Finland as a child and as a young man.  I did them for his descendants who will be meeting at the memorial service for Ed’s daughter Vivian Helander Kallio.( ) She lived in Maynard all her life except for the last seven months in Maine.  I thought the translations could be  put on the Raivaaja web for those inquisitive about life in a croft in the 1890’s.

ED ON A JOB HUNT “Raivaaja” January 2, 1986

We lacked both jobs and money. Physical labor was the only way to get the money and that was usually an exhausting undertaking.

The “Socialidemokraatti” (The Social Democrat newspaper) which was published in Pori at that time, in Eetu Salin’s territory, had an ad stating that the Pori Cotton Mills would be hiring men on Monday morning. Sakari from Marjamäki and Eetu from Järvensivu made a pact to be there early on Monday morning, before any others.

We drove our bicycles to Vammala and left them, with the proprietor’s permission, at a local bakery. Then we walked to the Tyrvää railroad station where we got on a train going to Pori. We arrived quite early but there were other early risers present and so time passed nicely. When we crossed the bridge and approached the cotton mills, we saw to our horror that there were perhaps two or three hundred men there who had arrived with the same goals: to find work and to make money.

When a gentleman and his thin legged assistant came out to look over the crowd, he picked out four of the older men and the thin legged one told us that was all that was needed today. Disappointment began to overwhelm me but then I remembered my oldest brother’s advice: “Tomorrow will be better than today.” We set off for the city and, of course, its market place. We bought a slice of pancake from a rotund sales woman and shared it. Sakari, being older, went to buy some beer to wash it down and we drank it in some stable. The beer was warm and tasted terrible to a first timer.

When we noted that we had spent our money on pancake and beer, and since there was still a lot of time, we decided to walk the tracks for several station lengths before we boarded the train. So that’s what we did.

In Friitala the local young men looked us over, so to speak, but we got out of it without a fight. We had left behind us all the troubles of the world and since our step was light, we decided to walk to yet another station.

We had no idea of train times for we had neglected to look at a time table. We were sure that we could catch a train for Vammala that evening. The stationmaster crushed our hopes by saying that the next train will stop in Vammala at 6:30 the next morning. After some deliberation we decided to approach the nearest farm for permission to stay the night.

As we approached the farmyard, to our horrow we saw a large bull venting its anger at a farm maid. The girl was running chased by the bull. We ran as fast as our legs would carry us to save the girl and just got to the fence when she leaped over it. Sakari tried to confound the bull by loud yelling but it kept snorting and pushing the fence. I grabbed a nearby fence post and whacked the bull between the horns as my father had taught us when Arve’s bull had attacked us. The bull eventually calmed down and went his way, still snorting his anger.

The farmer had heard the commotion out in the field and approached us. The girl explained what had happened to the master, how these boys whom she did not know had come to her rescue. We introduced ourselves and told him of missing the train. We asked to spend the night in his hayloft.

The farmer showed us where we could stay and then confiscated our cigarettes and matches until morning. It was a really sweet and refreshing slumber in that fragrant hay in a strange town during the Finnish summer of 1912.

Ed Helander

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